Austrian translation, of course

On reading Rules for Reformers, it seems unfair to critique Doug for something that he didn’t actually intend to do with the book, namely, offer substantive arguments for his positions. As is the case with a collection of blog posts packaged into a book, rhetoric is what carries the day. So, rather than interact critically with metaphors, I’d like to just explore some aspects of a truly Biblical account of property, and not merely a certain type of an Austrian American one, in light of his section “Free Men, Free Markets” (237–245).[1]

Although the cultural reformer is supposed to apply the Bible to “every square inch” of life, when someone like N.T. Wright mentions Jubilee as a great idea, that’s dismissed as “leftism” and “Keynesianism,” and the gospel is said to bring “free markets” in its wake, (Hayek 1:12, and 2 von Mises 3:17, Austrian translation, of course).

The claim that libertarian free markets are the truly Biblical economy is surprising, to say the least, in light of God’s Torah. For the people of God, “private property” was not an inalienable right entailing total freedom. The land was God’s, not theirs (Leviticus 25:23). They weren’t free to do whatever they wanted with the fruits of their labors. They were required to leave the edge of their fields for the poor and the sojourner (Leviticus 19:9, 23:22, Deuteronomy 24:19, et al). Every three years a 10% tax was exacted and given to the Levite, the sojourner, and the widow (Deuteronomy 26:12). There were price controls on the selling of property (Leviticus 25:16). And of course, that leftist notion of Jubilee. If only Moses had read some Lew Rockwell. This isn’t to deny any sense of private property, or course. “Thou shalt not steal” certainly implies something of the notion. But to go on to assert a libertarian view of private property rights is an unsubstantiated leap (at least from the Biblical text).

Those who claim that any control on the markets is inherently on a spectrum from “unsound economics” to “abject wickedness” don’t seem to have wrestled long enough with the text of Scripture. Referring to taxes as “immoral confiscation” comes out of this sort of framework.

This ought not be construed as favoring “whatever the unbelieving left says about money” any more than “whatever the unbelieving right says about money.” This is not a defense of the current state of welfare, the IRS, or The Fed. But it is to contend that straight libertarian economics might not be the answer either, at least not the Biblical one.

One can only scratch his head when he reads, on page 270, “When we came in it said debts expunged. But now, looking out, it says to expunge debts.” But not, you know, actual debts, because that would be Keynesianism.

It may be that “Jesus is not Keynesian” (244), but I’m quite sure he isn’t Austrian either.

[1] Reprinted from: Doug Wilson, “Five Degrees to the Left is Not Upside Down,”, and “N.T. Wright Rides a Pale Horse,”, accessed 11/20/15.

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